I think this is a metaphor for capitalism

But it’s still a fascinating story. Did you know that old McDonald’s Monopoly game was totally corrupt and broken? An insider was stealing the million dollar instant winner tokens, and passing them along to associates who’d cash them in and kickback thousands of dollars to the thief. “Jerome Jacobson and his network of mobsters, psychics, strip club owners, and drug traffickers won almost every prize for 12 years”. Whoa. My family played the game, casually and intermittently — this was happening during the years my kids insisted on going to McDonald’s. And now I learn there was never any chance I was going to get lucky and become a millionaire.

You might argue that this is just the actions of one rogue crook, but there were other ways the game was rigged by the officials running it.

During that 1995 prize draw, something happened that would change the game. According to Jacobson, when the computerized prize draw selected a factory location in Canada, Simon Marketing executives re-ran the program until it chose an area in the USA. Jacobson claimed he was ordered to ensure that no high-level prizes ever reached the Great White North.

Sorry, Canada.

Jacobson and many of his associates were eventually caught, arrested, and got some short prison sentences and massive fines. But the woes of McDonald’s promotion didn’t end there.

And when lady luck regained control of the McDonald’s competitions, she handed winning tickets to a man wearing a full Pizza Hut uniform; a Taco Bell owner; and a former homeless man who was later charged with beating up his fiancée–a PR nightmare.

You know, this is what everyone should have expected when you build a promotional contest around a terrible game that celebrates the worst of greed and selfishness — you’re going to find it hijacked by looters within, and if it were really a fair contest, you’d find that sometimes people outside your ideological group would win. And what is the game of Monopoly but a transparent metaphor for the evils of capitalism?


  1. says

    Same sort of thing happened in Australia back in the 80’s. You got a playing card with each purchase of food, and could redeem them for a prize when you got a suit of 4. Trouble was, as a friend of mine found out when he worked there, only 3 of the 4 possible suits were ever released to the public. Someone got the missing cards but it wasn’t the general public.

  2. cartomancer says

    Do you not have some kind of government oversight body to regulate these sorts of thi…

    Yes, it does sound silly when you say it out loud. US Government. Oversight body. Ye gods I can be naive.

  3. zoonpolitikon says

    And what is the game of Monopoly but a transparent metaphor for the evils of capitalism?

    In fact the game is precisely that (this includes: invented by a woman, stolen by a man).

  4. Akira MacKenzie says

    Try telling that to the rank-and-file libertarians/conservatives who still insist that capitalism in the only moral economic system in human history. They’d look at the same story and say “No! This isn’t an allegory for capitalism, but of SOCIALISM with its cronyism and corruption that is an inherent feature of ALL GUBMINT!!!” Knowing them, they’d probably find a way to blame this entire scandal upon “high” taxation and “burdensome” government regulation.

    I hate them. I hate them so much.

  5. says

    Well that is depressing. I played that game with classmates in law school (admittedly we didn’t expect to win) all on the hope that we could win and not have to be lawyers. So MacDonald’s has a great deal to be guilty of.

  6. DrewN says

    There always seems to be a suspiciously high rate of top prize winners for Tim Hortons ‘Roll up the rim’ contest in Quebec. I wonder if something similar is happening.

  7. bryanfeir says

    With ‘Roll up the Rim to Win’, the top prize allocation is in fact deliberately and openly skewed, with a certain number of prizes allocated to each region of Canada. Mostly because if the prizes were allocated purely randomly, the odds of anybody Atlantic Canada ever winning the highest prizes would be pretty close to non-existent.

    (Actually, I just found the PDF with the full rules and distribution from the last run in February, which includes how many cups went to each region and how many of them were significant winners per region:
    Based on those numbers, it’s actually more even than I thought based on previous years, with about half the cups and half the prizes going to Ontario. Of course, that’s only where the cups were sold, not where the people were from.)

    Honestly, if there were going to be corruption in a Tim Hortons contest, I would expect it to be more in favour of Ontario rather than Quebec.

  8. hotspurphd says

    I’m reading a terrific book which “walks us through exactly how giant corporations have destroyed good jobs in the USA, and, worldwide. With simple and beautiful writing and stories, Rosenblum cuts right through the idea that workers today earn less because of some magical thing called “the market.” The market, as he wryly tells us, is people, in this case, giant corporations in the airline industry, who set out to make millions for the CEO’s and shareholders and screw the working class.”It also details how the federal government help the corporations make extra millions while screwing the workers. It is the “inside story of the first successful fight for a $15 minimum wage, which renewed a national labor movement through bold strategy and broad inclusiveness. “
    Beyond $15: Immigrant Workers, Faith Activists, and the Revival of the Labor Movement by Jonathan Rosenblum.

    This is one in a series of books being read by a book club at a local Unitarian Universalist Church. The books have all been stunning revelations of injustice in this country and ways to combat it.

  9. archangelospumoni says

    Another grand reason NOT to have been to a McD’s since about 1977. A nice winning streak, that one.

    Not sure of this was true, but it made the myth rounds.
    A McD franchise in Providence had a broken front window, courtesy of somebody having thrown a brick through it, complete with attached note (only understood by old humans):

    “You deserve a brick today . . . .”

  10. chrislawson says


    who set out to make millions for the CEO’s and shareholders and screw the working class

    The author is being generous. The modern corporate system is designed to scam shareholders as well. The number of CEOs who undertake risky strategies because success maximises their bonuses while failure just means a golden parachute…well let’s just say the shareholder pays both ways.